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UK defence minister in Cyprus to meet officials on British bases

file photo: nato defence ministers' meeting at the alliance's headquarters in brussels
UK Defence Minister Grant Shapps

British Defence Minister Grant Shapps is travelling to Cyprus on Wednesday to meet with officials and staff at the United Kingdom’s British bases.

Shapps’ trip to Cyprus is part of a regional tour, during which he will also visit the Palestinian Territories and Israel. He is being accompanied on the visits by head of the British Armed Forces Admiral Sir Tony Radkin.

Speaking in the British Parliament regarding his trip, he said his country’s objectives “include to demonstrate and reaffirm the UK’s continued support for Israel, while continuing to press for adherence to international humanitarian law [and] to emphasise the importance the UK places on humanitarian aid reaching Gaza.”

Asked by an opposition MP regarding the role the bases in Cyprus are playing in the conflict, he said “the RAF bases in Cyprus are a very useful asset. They are being used, for example, to provide support to our military in the area.”

He added, “I can assure her that we have provided no offensive military weapons to Israel during this conflict.”

Shapps’ trip to Gaza comes after reports surfaced on Tuesday that the UK could provide ships to deliver humanitarian aid and would conduct surveillance flights to find hostages over the eastern Mediterranean.

The reports stated that the aircraft will be unarmed, will not have a combat role, and will be tasked solely to locate hostages, the UK government said, adding that only information relating to hostage rescue will be passed to the relevant authorities responsible for hostage rescue.

“In response to the situation in Israel and Gaza, we are working with international partners to de-escalate the conflict, reinforce stability and support humanitarian efforts in the region. Any use of UK bases will be in line with these objectives,” the British defence ministry had told the Cyprus Mail.

Cyprus, too, is looking into providing humanitarian aid to Gaza, with President Nikos Christodoulides having visited Egypt and Jordan with the aim of progressing his effort towards creating a humanitarian aid corridor between the island and Gaza.

On the matter of the use of Akrotiri in the conflict, a UK-based website by the name of Declassified UK had said it had counted a total of 33 flights made by the RAF between Akrotiri and Tel Aviv in the first month after the Hamas attack on October 7.

In response at the time, the British defence ministry said “the RAF has operated 17 flights into Tel Aviv in order to support the UK’s diplomatic engagement in the country as well as to assist with the departure of British nationals.”

“None of these flights transported any lethal aid for foreign nations,” they added.

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